Saturday, November 29, 2014

Now That Thanksgiving Is Over…

I forgot to write my blog for today.  Well, not exactly.  Obviously I wrote one because here it is.  The problem is that I didn't write it ahead of time as I usually do.  I try to get my blog posted by noon (or shortly after) each Saturday. Right now it's Saturday at 11:15AM Central time and I'm just starting to write without having anything firmly in my mind beyond a general concept.

How did this happen?  That's a good question.  And the answer is—Long Holiday Weekend.  Instead of having extra time available due to a Holiday, I have confusion due to the fact that today is the third Sunday this week and there's still one more Sunday to go before things return to normal (or as normal as things get for a writer).

Last Wednesday seemed like Saturday because it was preparation for the next day's Thanksgiving holiday—out-of-town relatives visiting, grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving (talk about large shopping crowds at a store!), preparing my assigned dish to take to my brother's house for the large gathering and feast.  Which, of course, made the next day seem like Sunday even though it was only Thursday.  Then yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving and in reality only Friday, naturally seemed like Sunday.  And since today isn't Monday, it must be Sunday…again.  Are you noticing a pattern here?  :)

And there's still tomorrow, the fourth Sunday—the real one—before things finally return to normal on Monday.
If you are the one who had all the friends and family to your house for Thanksgiving turkey with all the traditional trimmings, you've probably been eating leftovers for two days and by now you don't want to see another turkey sandwich for a while.

I can't speak for anyone else, but recovering from a holiday weekend always feels to me as if I'm learning a set routine all over from scratch.  After tomorrow's fourth Sunday, I need to think Monday again.  I really don't want to deal with a fifth consecutive Sunday in one week.  :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Turkey Trivia…Just In Time For Thanksgiving

It's that time of year again…the fourth Thursday in November.  This week we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S.  Americans cook approximately 45 million turkeys each year for Thanksgiving.  So, in honor of the holiday, here are a dozen known and not so well known bits of trivia about turkeys.

1)  All turkeys do not taste the same.  The taste has to do with their age.  An older male is preferable to a younger male (the younger tom is stringy).  And the younger female hens are preferable to the older ones.  Hmmm…that older man and younger woman thing again.  I wonder if there's such a thing as a female cougar turkey.  :)

2)  A turkey less than 16 weeks old is called a fryer and a turkey 5 to 7 months of age is known as a roaster.

3)  Turkeys are a type of pheasant and are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.

4)  Wild turkeys are able to fly for short durations attaining speeds up to 55mph.  Domesticated turkeys raised on farms for food are too fat and meaty to achieve flight.

5)  We've all heard that Benjamin Franklin argued in favor of the turkey as the national symbol of America rather than the Bald Eagle (see last week's blog—Eagle Vs. Turkey).

6)  The first turkeys to be domesticated were in Mexico and Central America.

7)  The male turkey makes the gobble sound and the female clucks.

8)  A mature turkey has about 3,500 feathers, which is a lot of plucking before it can be cooked.

9)  The most turkeys produced annually come from Minnesota and North Carolina.

10)  The skin that hangs from a turkey's neck is called a wattle.  The fleshy growth on the base of the beak is the snood.

11)  Each year 90 percent of Americans have turkey for Thanksgiving compared to 50 percent on Christmas.

12)  The most turkey consumed per capita is not eaten by Americans.  Israel holds that honor.

One thing that's marvelous about the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is all the terrific leftovers!  Anyone out there having something other than the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving dinner?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Eagle Vs. Turkey: America's National Symbol

We all know that the bald eagle is America's National Symbol…a proud and majestic bird.  And turkey is what we serve every year at Thanksgiving dinner…a tasty bird made all the more appetizing when accompanied by dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy.

But did you know that if Benjamin Franklin had gotten his way, the turkey would have been our national symbol?

In 1776, right after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress appointed a special committee to select a design for an official national seal.  This committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.  They each had their own ideas, none of which included the bald eagle.  They finally came to agreement on a drawing of a woman holding a shield to represent the states.  However, the design did nothing to inspire the members of Congress.

So Congress consulted a Philadelphia artist named William Barton who created a new design that included a golden eagle.  At the time we were still at war with England and the fierce looking bird was deemed an appropriate symbol…with one small change.  The golden eagle also flew over Europe so the federal lawmakers declared that the bird in the seal had to be an American bald eagle.

On June 20, 1782, they approved the design that we recognize today.

From the start, the eagle had been a controversial choice.  Benjamin Franklin was quite vocal in his objection to the selection of the eagle.  He considered it a bird of "bad moral character."  A year after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war with Great Britain, Franklin argued that the turkey would have been a more appropriate symbol.  "A much more respected bird and a true native of America."

Unfortunately for Franklin, Congress was not convinced and the bald eagle remained our national symbol.

Whereas both the bald eagle and the turkey are native to America, we can't lay exclusive claim to either species since both traditionally ranged in Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S.

And all of this leads us to one important question.  If the turkey had been chosen as our national symbol, what would we serve as our traditional Thanksgiving dinner?  Somehow roast eagle just doesn't have the same appeal as the turkey.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

And This Week There's...nothing?

Please accept my" seasonal for all seasons" greeting.  I apologize for now having a blog post this week.  I had too much 'real life and reality' invade my existence.

Check back Saturday, November 15, for another blog post.  Meanwhile...wishing everyone a great week!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

After Halloween Candy Nightmares

October is behind us and Halloween is now over for another year.

Halloween aftermath usually means two things—putting away the witch, ghost and goblin decorations while keeping the autumn ones that go with the Thanksgiving decorations, and fighting the battle of all that candy in the house.  There's the leftover candy from what you bought to hand out and then there's all the candy the kids collected on their Trick-or-Treat rounds.  Bowls filled with candy.  Sacks full of candy.  Enough potential tooth decay and sugar-rush material to last until next Halloween.

And what kind of candy is it that we seem to have in abundance?  Candy manufacturers, in addition to their regular size candy bars, make the little fun size candy—the mini candy bars or individual pieces.  Those little bite size morsels that give us just a taste…and whet our appetite for more.  They are available all year, but are particularly popular at Halloween, often being wrapped in Halloween designs and colors.

These little tidbits aren't as harmless as you'd like to believe.  Many of the small treats are worse for you than eating a normal size candy bar.  But that can't be, you tell yourself, because you're only going to eat one of those little things and that's certainly not the same as a regular size candy bar.  Well, you and I both know that's nothing more than wishful thinking!  As that old Lay's Potato Chip commercial said—"Bet you can't eat just one."  :)

I recently saw a list of the ten worse choices of these mini candy snacks and I'd like to share it with you.

1)  Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins (1 piece):  You convince yourself that you're getting lots of protein from the peanut butter.  Think again.  One pumpkin has 180 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 17 grams of sugar.

2)  Dove Milk Chocolate Promises (5 pieces):  Chocolate is marvelous stuff, full of antioxidants that help decrease the risk of heart disease.  Think again.  It's DARK chocolate that has the antioxidants, not milk chocolate.  You're eating 220 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 22 grams of sugar.

3)  Twix Miniatures (3 pieces):  Like the Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins, another choice that might not seem so bad for you.  This gooey caramel and cookie crunch treat has 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 15 grams of sugar.

4)  Almond Joy Snack-Size Bars (3 pieces):  Coconut milk and coconut water might be popular in healthy eating circles, but that doesn't mean it's ok to cover it with chocolate and still consider it healthy.  With these, you're eating 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 19 grams of sugar.

5)  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Miniature (5 pieces):  Remember the comments about Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins?  Well, the same rules apply here only this time it's 220 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 23 grams of sugar.

6)  Hershey's Miniatures (5 pieces):  These are staples every year at Halloween time.  The mixed bag of treats begs you to try at least one of each kind.  You'll be consuming 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 19 grams of sugar.

7)  Hershey's Kisses Caramel-Filled (9 pieces): These seem safe, but don't be fooled.  You're looking at 190 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar.

8)  York Dark Chocolate-Covered Peppermint Patties (3 pieces):  The cool minty chocolate that melts in your mouth gives you 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 27 grams of sugar.

9)  Snickers Fun Size (2 bars):  The commercials say, "Hungry?  Grab a Snickers."  If you do, you'll be grabbing 144 calories, 7.4 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar.

10)  Kit Kat Snack Size (three 2-piece bars):  These little beauties are worth 210 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar.

Perhaps the scariest thing about Halloween is the number of calories, grams of fat, and grams of sugar we consume under the guise of it's little, it won't hurt me.

And now for something completely different (with apologies to Monty Python for borrowing their phrase).  What about having a glass of wine with our Halloween candy?  What type of wine do you pair with something so sweet?  What wine goes with Candy Corn?

Master Sommelier and Director of Wines at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants has put together some pairings of Halloween candy and wine for your pleasure.

Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars go nicely with a fruity, low-alcohol wine like Brachetto d'Aqui from Northern Italy.  It's bright pink and tastes like raspberries and roses.

Hot Tamales are intensely spicy and sweet.  That demands a high acid wine with low alcohol to cut the spice and high sugar content, something like a German Riesling.

Tootsie Rolls go very well with a Tawny Port.  A twenty year old Tawny Port will taste like nuts and orange peel.

Reese's Pieces go perfectly with Vin Santo from Italy.  This wine has a nutty flavor, a great match with the peanut buttery candy.

And finally…what wine goes with Candy Corn?  According to the expert, this super sugary candy pairs well with a very floral wine like Muscat de Beaumes de Venise which is a fortified Muscat from the South of France with a rich orange blossom flavor.

So…sort out your candy and don't over do it.